RANGATAHI SUICIDE PREVENTION INITIATIVES 2014 – 2017
SAFE, CONFIDENT AND ENGAGED RANGATAHI (YOUTH)
Our voyage owes much to the strength and foresight of youth
The Waka Hourua initiatives identified Rangatahi 15- 25 year old’s as a priority population because of their increasing presence in the suicide statistics, particularly being reported highest when compared to all youth in New Zealand, also amongst Māori who were over 30 years old (Ministry of Justice, 2017). Waka Hourua explored four opportunities for engagement.
First, some initiatives focused on building resilience among secondary school students. Seminars enabled small breakout groups to discuss positive career planning, relationships at home and school, managing social media, and recognising distress in self and others. The clear focus was on building strengths for today and tomorrow. Other seminars heard from peers about how difficulties had been overcome and what had helped to regain confidence and develop the will to carry on.
In the second approach, rangatahi were encouraged to develop their own programmes and to make use of their own networks and sources of information. Among other strategies, giving, seeking, and receiving help when it was needed was viewed crucial to fostering rangatahi wellbeing. Essentially rangatahi-led approaches recognise the potential of rangatahi to relate more readily to their peers and to reduce risks within school environments.
A third avenue took a more instructive approach by alerting groups to the impacts of lifestyles associated with suicide and then providing them with strategies for avoiding those situations. There was also discussion on the services that could be helpful to anyone who might be unhappy to the point of considering suicide. Alcohol and drug misuse, broken relationships, violence in home environments, perceived loss of dignity or self-esteem were among the more common risks addressed.
A fourth avenue drew on the expertise of rangatahi in digital technologies. Communication, both positive and negative has become increasingly dependent on social media, text messaging, tweeting, and 24 hour mobile telephone exchanges. Digital interaction has become the major form of connectedness for many rangatahi. While the uncensored, impulsive, and hurtful language has presented serious problems for some on the receiving end, there have also been attempts to promote a more ethical approach to digital communication and a reduced dependency on that mode. Rangatahi leaders themselves have also made greater use of social media, text messaging and mobile linkages to foster greater responsibility for users, and to provide advice for those who might be distressed to the point of contemplating suicide.
Common to all four approaches has been a strong sense of responsibility for the prevention of suicide. The initiatives undertaken by rangatahi leaders, and the sense of obligation to peers, have been beneficial. Often, they demonstrated a capacity to relate and help in ways that parents, teachers, or community agencies would have found difficult.
Marae noho (cultural space stayover) were held for rangatahi to strengthen their cultural identity, utilising whakawhanaungatanga (relationships), to build resilience and leadership skills. This learning contributed to their confidence as a means of suicide prevention. A supportive environment was also provided to work on Path plans that outlined goals for the future which they were committed to reaching that focused on strengthening themselves.
An antibullying activist rangatahi (youth) group RAID developed suicide prevention resources advising on what to do and where to get help in their community. Also, suicide prevention and resiliency building wānanga (Māori focused forums) were held supported by RAID resources. Local hauora (health) services also encouraged accessing help from them and explained the help that was being offered. This formed an available support network for rangatahi when required.
Suicide prevention training was provided to the He Konae community focusing on recognising suicidal signs and increasing confidence to approach and to talk to a person at risk. Knowledge of where to access assistance was also viewed as part of the solution to suicide prevention. Wānanga (Māori focused forums) for raising awareness of suicide specific to at-risk rangatahi were viewed as seminal. Ongoing support for rangatahi through a specifically set up Facebook was being pursued.
Wānanga (Māori focused forums) involving traditional waka (canoes) were utilised to empower and increase protective factors against suicide. Māori protocols and traditional waka practices in an alcohol, substance and violence free environment were major features of this initiative. Leaders trained in suicide prevention were also available to the participants and were also encouraging of the healthy lifestyles and keeping safe approach provided by the wānanga. Rangatahi (youth) were keen participants in this initiative that strengthened their connection with Māori traditions and provided a connection to their culture focused on strengthening themselves.
Key to Life events were held for rangatahi (youth) aimed at changing the way communities think, act and feel about mental health and suicide. At the events, suicide prevention resources were distributed to ensure rangatahi knew the range of support that was available if needed. Local and regional hauora (health) services also attended these events and promoted their services assuring attendees of the easy access to support when required.
Suicide awareness training was provided by this initiative which also included the development of the school-based anti-bullying support group assisted by the RAID group. A Facebook social media campaign and publications in the local newspaper championed local rangatahi (youth) achievement to build confidence and positive experiences. These activities will be an ongoing opportunity available for acknowledging rangatahi success.
This initiative involved the community, schools and used a rangatahi (youth) survey to raise suicide awareness and to develop a suicide prevention programme. The rangatahi survey gauged rangatahi knowledge of suicide and how to access help. All schools who participated in this initiative offered two learning modules to support rangatahi which focused on building self-confidence and suicide awareness. Activities were specific to building healthy relationships, how to speak about suicide and how to seek advice.
This rangatahi (youth) focused initiative utilised Musikool (music) and Spoken word (poetry) workshops to empower rangatahi to explore through creative expression, critical issues in their lives and their communities, as a means of suicide prevention. The workshops were supportive of rangatahi who were going through recovery of alcohol and drug abuse issues. Opportunities were provided for self-expression, confidence building and positive thinking.
Wānanga were a feature of this initiative that aimed to build connections within the community and build rangatahi (youth) confidence, leadership, teamwork, and resilience, as a means of suicide prevention. These aims were achieved through activities offered such as a camp, movie nights, a two-day rangatahi-centred leadership programme. This programme will be continued to be provided focused on strengthening rangatahi.
Music and martial arts to help rangatahi (youth) to build resiliency as a means of suicide prevention was the emphasis of this initiative. Topics such as positive emotions, communication, self-esteem, positive identity, problem solving and building confidence were all explored. Through music, rangatahi learnt self-expression. Through martial arts, rangatahi learnt ways of calming themselves, respect and discipline.
Iwi (tribal) specific whakapapa (genealogy) to build resilience, connectedness, confidence, and leadership was utilised in this initiative as a means of suicide prevention. Rangatahi (youth) were taught the history, songs and dances, thoughts and prayers specific to their iwi (tribe), Tapuika. By building an individual’s sense of cultural identity with strong whānau (family) networks, this was viewed as a means of strengthening rangatahi for future challenges that might be encountered.
Social services collaborated and developed digital suicide prevention resources in order to increase access to and receive timely and appropriate responses for those rangatahi (youth) at risk of suicide. There is a commitment to ongoing collaborations to ensure rangatahi continue to be supported with their wellness.
Multiple rangatahi events were offered in order to build resilience, connectedness, confidence, and leadership, as a means of suicide prevention. These events included leadership wānanga, te reo (language) surfing and mahinga kai (gardening). The suicide awareness training provided the confidence to approach and to talk to someone at risk and where to access further support. Career opportunities and learning tikanga Māori were also a focus of this initiative aimed at strengthening rangatahi.
Strengthening the resource base of an outdoor activity rangatahi development was offered by Mahia Rangatahi Toa. Suicide prevention learning was provided through outdoor activity in an alcohol and drug free environment that built confidence through survival skills. A Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) suicide prevention workshop was also completed which supported rangatahi to talk about how to help others talk about suicide and what to do if assistance was needed.
A set of contemporary animated stories were developed for rangatahi to decrease the risk of suicide. These resources focused on bullying, rejection, failure, identity, blame and shame. The use of pop culture, storytelling, poetry, music, digital, comic books, rap and rhyme, lyrics and dance were a feature of these videos that can be found at http://wakahourua.co.nz/live-more-awesome-speaker-box-%E2%80%93-it%E2%80%99s-time-talk-0 .
Rangatahi (youth) and whānau (families) were provided with support on how to respond to bullying, alienation and suicide risk to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer (LGBTQ) whānau through the Mika Haka Foundation, Aroha project, a transmedia multimedia project. Live events, web-based resources (film and music) as well as rangatahi workshops sharing and discussion across social media and in partnerships with Lifeline and Youthline were features of this initiative raising suicide awareness and prevention approaches. Resources can be found at http://wakahourua.co.nz/mika-haka-foundation.